A law career can be lucrative. Because of this, thousands of hopeful students flock to law school yearly. But at what cost? It takes a big investment of both time and money to apply to a law school. That investment starts with preparing for and taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). A high score on the LSAT is your exclusive ticket to law school, and that high score is an expensive commodity.
Is the LSAT Required?
Virtually all law schools require the LSAT for admission eligibility. This has always been the mandate of the American Bar Association (ABA). But the ABA has eased up on that requirement. Recently, the ABA has allowed each law school to determine what the accepted standardized test should be.
Some law schools chose to accept the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). But this is the exception, not the norm. If you want to go to law school, you may want to apply to several different schools to guarantee acceptance. Since almost all of them require the LSAT, that is the test you should take.
Parts of the LSAT
The LSAT is a multiple-choice exam that includes a writing sample. The writing sample is an essay. The test has three scored sections, including:
- Analytical Reasoning
- Reading Comprehension
- Logical Reasoning
The sections are given to you in the above order. You are given 35 minutes to complete each section.
The writing sample also has 35 minutes allocated for completion. It should be noted that although this essay is required, it is not scored. It's up to each school to decide how they will evaluate it.
How to Study for LSAT
Although studying for the LSAT is imperative, it goes beyond memorizing facts. Because the test is based on logic and analytical thinking, those are the elements that require your focus.
Hone your reasoning and reading skills. You’ll be asked to evaluate and determine the strength or weakness of an argument.
The one unique element to the test is the logic games. This is where you should concentrate your studying energies. Logic games are the test’s analytical section. These games determine your skills in:
- finding structure in organized data
- deductive reasoning
One way to practice these skills is by taking advantage of study groups. Present each other with prompts, like those that you will find in the test. Then, you'll be able to give and explain your answers to each person and determine if your logic has flaws or merit.
One of the best ways to study is by using LSAT practice tests. But they come at a cost.
Studying for LSAT Time Commitment
Taking the LSAT requires a great deal of commitment. There’s an expense to studying that is related to your time. After all, time is money.
On average, it will take 300 hours of study time to prepare for the LSAT. This is time taken away from earning a living. The minimum wage in the U.S. at this writing is $7.25. At 300 hours multiplied by $7.25, it will cost you $2,175 in lost wages to study.
College graduates are probably making more than minimum wage, so, this number is higher for most people.
The bottom line is, the long hours of studying for the LSAT cuts into your current income.
Price of LSAT Practice Tests
The obvious answer to how to prepare for the LSAT is to take practice tests. A full-length practice test familiarizes you with not only the questions but the test's layout. You will note that the questions’ difficulty increases the further down the test you go.
Most practice tests aren’t free, and you need to take at least two to three tests a week.
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) offers two full four-section prep tests as part of a package at no charge. But if you start studying for the LSAT a year in advance, you'll need a minimum of 100 practice tests. Most prices for practice tests run between $4 to $24 a test. This adds up quickly.
LSAC has a paid package that makes it more economically feasible. They have a program that offers one year of access to LSAT practice tests. The price at this writing is $99. This includes 70 different official practice tests.
Although practice tests are essential, proper studying for the LSAT goes beyond memorizing questions and answers. For example, half the LSAT score you earn is made up of the logical reasoning portion. So, when studying, you need to focus on this area.
LSAT Preparation Book Costs
There are a lot of materials used to study for the LSAT. It takes more than one book. Since there are three distinct sections of the test, you want to find books that specialize in each one.
You’ll need books that contain:
- logic games (also known as analytical reasoning)
- logical reasoning
- reading comprehension
These books can run anywhere from $35 to $60 apiece. They are available in sets as well. Make it a point to purchase a book that explains logic games and has examples.
Plan on budgeting at least $200 on various books. And the longer you study, the more material you may think you need. So, this budget could be stretched fast.
LSAT Tutors Add to Expense
Many prospective law students hire a private tutor. But what are the advantages and disadvantages? And, the biggest question, what is the cost?
Advantages of hiring a tutor:
A tutor will develop a tailored course. The tutor will get to know your strengths and weaknesses and build a curriculum that addresses them.
They will help you develop strategies that work for the LSAT. This is fine-tuning your approach. Fine-tuning is hard to do in a class.
Disadvantages of hiring a tutor:
Time is difficult to come by. When you hire a tutor, you are committed to frequently meeting every week. Taking the time out of your day to drive to a designated venue can become a burden. Schedules change and emergencies pop up. But that obligation remains.
The biggest disadvantage is the price. Private tutors are expensive.
Being an LSAT tutor is a lucrative career. They make an average of $80,000 a year off prospective law school students. Unfortunately, this translates into a hefty price tag. An LSAT tutoring bill can be anywhere from $90 to $125 per hour.
Suppose you want to cram with a tutor the month before the LSAT, prepare to pay the price. If you meet twice a week for an hour, you'll be spending around $800. And that is in addition to all those books and tests you had to buy.
Read More: What Experience Do You Need to Become a Lawyer?
Pricy Online LSAT Prep Schools
An option to paying for a private tutor is an online LSAT prep school. There are numerous online prep schools available that have different types of curricula. All of them claim high scores for the price they charge. Buyer beware. Read former students’ reviews and evaluate the courses based on how they will meet your needs.
Some of the services of online LSAT prep schools include:
- official LSAT questions
- 70 or more practice tests
- on-demand videos by instructors
- live instruction
- email assistance from tutors
- books and manuals
- four-week boot camp
No one LSAT prep school offers all these services. So, you’ll need to shop around and find one that fits your study routine and schedule. Most offer various plans from one to 12 months.
Every prep school has the promise of increasing your LSAT score by at least five points. One even guarantees a minimum score of 165.
Here's a cost comparison of a twelve-month plan from three randomly selected online LSAT prep schools:
Other online prep courses cost more or even less. All these examples, as well as most online LSAT prep courses, offer 12-month financing.
Online LSAT Prep Course Advantages
There are several reasons for choosing an online LSAT prep school. This investment will force you to have discipline when it comes to studying. If you’ve paid for a defined time to have access to on-demand videos or live lectures, you'll be motivated to set time aside to use them or you will have wasted your money.
Most prep schools have a mock-timed LSAT exam for you to take. This is the ultimate way to practice.
If a course can indeed raise your score five points, this may provide a payoff in the future. The higher your score, the more opportunities for scholarships.
Online LSAT Prep Course Disadvantages
The biggest disadvantage to taking an online prep course is the cost. If you're struggling financially, the cost may be hard to justify. You can do this on your own if you have the discipline and want it.
The products that the online schools charge for could be purchased ala carte from other sources. For instance, most online schools offer 70 practice tests. But these are the same official practice tests that you can purchase from the LSAC for $99. So, the course is just rolling the fee into your tuition.
And, if you finance the prep course cost, you’re adding yet another expense to a future law school bill. You should take the time to evaluate both your needs and your budget.
Required LSAT Fees
The costs don’t stop after the preparation for taking the LSAT. There are several fees associated with the LSAT. And although they are subject to change, they generally are:
- LSAT: $200
- Credential Assembly Service (CAS): $195
- Law Report: $45 per school
The LSAT fee is per test. So, if you want to take the test again, you need to pay the same fee as you did for the first one. Fees are paid to and administered through the LSAC. Most credit cards are accepted when paying online.
CAS and Law Report Charges
Law schools require the CAS. It creates a summary of your credentials. It includes:
- letters of recommendation
- Law Report creation
- other documents each law school requires
Ordering and paying for the CAS goes through the LSAC. Your CAS account is active for five years upon paying the fee.
The Law Report is generated from the information supplied to the CAS. A separate Law Report needs to be purchased for each school you apply to at $45 a pop, which adds up fast if you apply to multiple law schools.
Law School Applications Fees
You’ve just spent thousands of dollars preparing for law school. And, if you’ve taken the LSAT once or twice, you’ve spent more money. But it’s not over.
Law schools have application fees. With the average potential student applying to nine law schools, the costs add up fast.
The average application fee for law school is $70. If you apply to nine that’s $630. And the sad part is, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be accepted.
Some law schools offer application waivers. Check into those before you send your application.
Most people worry about how they’re going to afford law school. But the first hurdle is affording the preparation. Run the numbers. Applying to law school is a large investment. It takes hours of study and a solid financial plan.
- LSAC: Official LSAT Sample Tests
- LSAC: LSAT & CAS Fees
- Princeton Review: About the LSAT
- University of Massachusetts Amherst: How Should I Prepare for the LSAT?
- LSAC: Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
- Costhelper Education: How Much Does LSAT Pre Cost
- Magoosh: Improve Your LSAT Score Guaranteed
- Blue Print Prep: Increase Your LSAT Score Guaranteed
- Princeton Review: How Many Times Can You Take the Test?
- ZipRecruiter: LSAT Tutor Salary
- Princeton Review: How long Should You Study for the LSAT
- MVorganizing: Are There any Law Schools That do not Require LSAT?
- Kaplan: Is the LSAT Required for Law School?
- Magoosh: How Many LSAT Practice Tests Should I Take?
- U.S. News: Use Fee Waivers to Cut Law School Application Costs
Anne attended University of Akron and went on to have a career in television sales. Working as a commercial property and casualty insurance agent for nine years allowed her to learn about different businesses' needs. She has also owned an advertising agency where she created marketing capaigns for various clients. Anne has written for several publications. She currently resides in Charleston, SC.